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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  July 17, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PDT

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blame game. he's parking responsibility for ukraine's government and this happened in ukrainian territory and he makes the comment about had there been military operations there, had there not have been military operations there, this wouldn't have happened. no specific finger pointing in terms of what happened. >> i'm jake tapper. i turn you over to wolf blitzer covering a big story in jerusalem. >> happening now, a situation room special report. breaking news. the crash of the malaysia airlines jumbo jet. u.s. sources say the plane was shot from the sky by the a surface-to-air missile, sparking an international crisis. a scene of carnage. bodies and debris scattered over miles. we're live on the ground where the wreckage is now smoldering. more breaking news. israeli forces have now invaded gaza launching a ground war, opening a new chapter in the deadly ten-day conflict.
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a statement just issued by the idf spokesman says large ground forces with massive assistance are moving towards targets, taking control of targets, operating against tunnels. the spokesman adds i call the people of gaza to evacuate the areas where the idf is operating because the army is using a lot of force. this operation will expand as needed and according to developments. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm oop wolf blitzer in jerusalem. you're in "the situation room." we're live here in jerusalem. there are two major breaking news stories we're following. that israeli ground invasion of gaza has been launched. just a little while ago, large numbers of israeli troops, thanks, armored personnel carriers are moving into gaza as we speak. we'll have full reports on what's going on, that is coming
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up. there's other huge breaking news. the crash of malaysian airlines flight 17 in eastern ukraine. dramatic video emerged of the plane going down. a boeing triple 7 with 295 people on board heading from amsterdam to kuala lump pur. there are no known survivors. sources tell cnn the united states now believes the plaep was shot down, shot down. intelligence has detected a surface-to-air missile system was track agaircraft at the time the plane went down. and a so-called heat signature was detected at the vet same sometime. that's more evidence of a missile. the prime minister spoke about the disaster just a few minutes ago. >> no stone will be left unturned. >> several pictures of the doomed flight have now surfaced on social media, including this one on face buk allegedly taken by a passenger boarding the flight. the caption reads and i'm
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quoting in case it disappears, this is what it looks like. we're bringing you all the latest developments as they come into the situation room this hour. we're covering all angles of both breaking stories. our correspondents and experts are all standing by. let's begin with chief national security correspondent jim sciutto in washington with the latest on the take-down, if you will, of this airliner. what are you hearing? >> i've been speaking all day with senior ukrainian officials. they've had a consistent message that this plane was shot down and that it was brought down by pro-russian separatists backed by russia and in contact they say with russian officials throughout. they released transcripts of what ukrainian officials say were intercepted communications by telephone between proposal-russian separatists and a russian intelligence agent as this plane was shot down.
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the malaysian jet fell from the sky over eastern ukraine in a fireball and a black cloud. pieces of burning debris visible, trailing gray smoke. on the ground, wreckage littered the landscape spread over a large area. evidence ukrainian officials tell cnn that the boeing triple 7 came apart at high altitude. ukrainian officials quickly blamed a missile strike by pro-russian separatists. the foreign minister telling cnn "it is as clear as day. they have been hunting our planes for weeks." ukraine's newly elected president petro poroshenko called it an act of terrorism. an. >> translator: i want to express condolences to all those whose close ones and family died in the class. i ask the government to send a team of expert hozzle do an investigation together with our team. we call it a terrorist action. >> russian president vladimir putin delivered the news of the
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crash to president obama during a morning phone call to you discuss new u.s. sanctions against russia. sanctions sparked by russian support for ukrainian militants including supplying weapons and fighters. >> it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. right now, we're working to determine whether there were american citizens on board. the united states will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. >> reporter: this is the missile system ukrainian officials identified as behind the attack. a russian made buk surface-to-air missile. pro-russian separatists captured a launcher at the end of june in eastern ukraine showing it off in a story broadcast on russian television. the system has the capability to strike an aircraft at 33,000 feet. the cruising altitude of the malaysian jet. a leader of the self-declared donetsk people's republic allegedly tweeted this just as the mh17 went missing. allaire craft was shot down in
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the torez region. it is dropping towards the vicinity of the progress mine adding ominously, we did warn you, do not fly in our sky. in recent weeks, ukrainian officials say pro-russian separatists have shot down several ukrainian military aircraft. i was in contact with the deputy foreign minister pointing the finger directly at vladimir putin. he told me russia inspires and arms terrorists. they are murderers. the world must stop putin. that gives you a sign how quickly this can escalate in eastern ukraine. >> certainly could be a major, major game-changer. this is a huge, huge development. jim, i want you to stand by for a moment. barbara starr is picking up new information. what else are you learning? ing >> we broke here at the pentagon the news a short time ago that the u.s. now concludes the plane
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was indeed shot down. a senior u.s. official telling me this conclusion is based on a couple of key facts. u.s. has, the u.s. has been watching this all day. what they now believe is there was an intelligence gathering system tracking able to see when a surface-to-air missile system in the area turned on its radar and began tracking an object,' plane in the sky. that tracking was observed. at the same time, they now know that them have additional information. there was a heat signature, an infrared signature of a catastrophic event in the same area at the time that one could calculate the plane went down. so the they see it the initial tracking by a surface-to-air missile system. they see a catastrophic event of something hitting this object. it is a large infrared heat signature. they believe that was the crash of the plane. now, u.s. intelligence and military officials will work
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their way back. they have this information. now they will conduct an in-depth analysis. what was the trajectory. work their way back and try and determine a launch point. was this is object, was the missile launched from the ukraine side of the border or the russian side of the border. it does not go to motivation but it will go a long way towards telling them where this came from and what exactly happened, wolf. >> and the prime minister of malaysia, barbara just said that there was no distress call from the cockpit of this doomed ma laboreral airliner. no distress call. i suspect that will say a lot to u.s. military intelligence, aviation experts. >> well, i think it will. clearly there was no distress call indicating that there was any kind of mechanical trouble. this was literal little a bolt that hit this aircraft by all accounts. i have to tell you, wolf, this is now resonating across
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military intelligence and security services across europe and across asia. just consider how many thousands of people, how many cargo jets, passenger jets travel between europe and asia back and forth every day. people fly over this region. this will have economic consequences. we're already seeing international air carriers can shift their air patterns, their traffic patterns to stay out of this area. this is europe. this is an area that is supposed to be safe. everyone understands this particular earl is an area of conflict. the question perhaps is, whoever perpetrated this, did they mean to shoot down a passenger jet? this would have huge ramifications i don't want account human tragedy, beyond account military jets that have been shot down. it will change the pattern of commerce and travel perhaps across europe. wolf? >> i suspect it certainly will. stand by. i want to bring in our experts
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including richard quest, our chief national correspondent jim sciutto, retired israeli air force general, head of the fisher brothers institute for air and space strategic studies, our aviation analyst miles o'brien and aviation and nis peter goelz, the former managing director of the ntsb. jim, you've been speaking with experts. what are they telling you? how hard is it to shoot down a u.s.-made ed boeing triple 7 flighting at 30,000 feet? how hard is it to shoot down a commercial plane like that with a ground-to-air missile? >> sadly not hard if you have equipment capable of hitting a target at that altitude. the sad fact is that develop equipment is floating around eastern ukraine right now including the. >> steve m.: officials have identified to me as the likely source, and that is the russian made buk, b-u-kcht russian made mill system.
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it has the range to go to where this plane was flying. is ukrainian officials no, sir and this has been publicized that two weeks ago, pro-russian separatists captured just such a missile system in eastern ukraine and overran a ukrainian military base and took a buk missile launcher. they tooifrzed it and the pictures of it aired on russian television and on twitter feeds and so on. so they also know these groups had it. hasn't been established that it was a buk that did this. those kinds of missile systems are capable of this. >> miles o'brien, what's the difference as far as a commercial jetliner is concerned, a military aircraft, how different do they look? how hard would it be to differentiate a commercial passenger plane from a military aircraft? >> well, it's interesting, wolf. i think the cnn audience by now knows an awful lot about
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transpoppeders. there's a military identification friend or foe. it allows you to identify your friends and then everything else. and they may be foes but also might be a civilian airliner. what happens then is you have to rely on the training and the command structure of the people who collectively have their hands on the trigger to make a decision, well, issing this particular blip. we know it's not a friend. but is it just a civilian airliner? well, it's at 33,000 feet on a known corridor. we don't expect this to be -- have any hostile intent. there's nothing about a flight level at 33,000 feet on a known civilian corridor that would indicate hostile intent in this case. so the somewhere along the line here, a horrible mistake has been made. >> let me bring in the retired israeli air force commander. ben gurion airport. this clearly sends a chilling
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message because only the other day, hamas was threatening a commercial aircraft coming into israel. how do you protect against something liking this? >> first of all, hamas is not such kind of weapon system. it's completely different system. they have shoulder missiles. it's a man portable air defense system. >> they can't reach 30,000 feet? >> they can't reach 30,000. >> other opponents of israel presumably could, right? >> yeah. so wealthy are not flying in an area under threat of these kinds of missiles and we have other protections we can use against this kind of threat. it's easy to hit civilian aircraft with such a weapons system. it's an illegitimate target for sure. the pilot has no way to know that they are locked by this kind of missiles and they have nothing to do when the missile hits them. >> general, stand by. we're going to pick your brain.
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you know a lot about this. ben gurion just the other day, the pilot was telling us about the special security procedures all commercial xsh aircraft take coming into israel. stand by for that. richard quest is getting more information. what are you picking up? >> well, there was nos distress call. the aircraft involved will have had the a cars automatic reporting system. i understand tonight in enmar sat has now provided the data that it would have received from the aircraft at the time of whatever happened whether it was a missile or whatever. they have now provided that data to the british investigating authority, the aaib. that will be pored over and give an indication of what happened immediately on that aircraft. also, wolf, euro control which looks after european air space have tonight closed all eastern ukraine air space in the area
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concerned. major airlines lufthansa, wiz air, british airways, turkish, be klm, air france, emirates have all announced in some shape or form, they will no longer be flying over ukraine, certainly not in that part of the country. so arguably, too little too late. but now many countries and regulators saying that air spaces in ukraine is now closed as they look over the data. >> yeah, that should be expected. they have to err when you're dealing with so many planes, so many people, they have to err on the side of caution. i want everyone to stand by. but there's another huge breaking story we're following right now. the major news, israel has now launched what is being described as a major ground invasion of gaza. let's bring in correspondent diana magnay. in ashkelon in southern israel, not far, far away from the israel border. what are you seeing and hearing?
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ing >> i'm in the hills above sister rot. two hours ago, just a little over two hours ago is, israel launched its ground invasion of the gaza strip. it really is a ramping up of operation protective edge. they will say they have gone in with a significant number of ground forces being supported by massive help from air and from sea. we've been standing here overlooking rocket fire coming out which is easy to spot. we've also seen ground to ground missiles going in, flares over the northern most part of the tip and you can see another rocket going inning from israel, slowly making its way presumably a precision guided missile coming into the northern part of the gaza strip. it seems as though the bombardment has been very much -- the sound you are hearing here we're on the top of a hill. i think you can probably see there are lots of israelis gathered around who are cheering
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when they see these kinds of israeli strikes. and it isalities astonishing is macabre and awful thing to watch this display of fire in the air, but really it is what is going on the ground, wolf, that is significant. and the israeli defense forces say they're moving in because of these many tunnels, these terror tunnels as the idf call them which hamas militants are digging out of the gaza strip. there was one incursion this morning down in down at the south of the strip. when militants from gaza came out of the tunnel and were struck by the idf forces. wolf? >> i want you to -- take pictures behind you, are still coming in, i want you to move out of the shot a little bit. let the photographer who is with you zoom in. i'd like to see some of those images in gaza right now if you can. those are pretty dramatic
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pictures. >> we're going to zoom in, wolf. you will see, this is where we're zooming in to the northern most part of the strip of the gaza strip. you can see an illuminated area. we think that is near the crossing. we've seen flares illuminating that area, presumably the defense forces trying to see where they're going as they move in or possibly searching for something. it's difficult really to make out what's going on. but every now and again, you do see these rockets coming in. sorry outgoing rockets from gaza and then these missiles again, wolf. it really has been a very intense bombardment. we've been out here for the last couple of hours and we have heard this series of explosions, the artillery fire presumably coming from israeli howitzers or naval warships. all the way down from the north of the gaza strip down to the
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south, wolf. >> it looks like there are people right behind you i guess residents of ashkelon where you are that are watching what's going on. you're only a few miles away from the border. they have a pretty good vant and border. is that what we're seeing, diana? >> that's right. actually, it's sterot, one of those towns that is very, very close to the border and experiences a huge amount of rocket fire. that is why is presumably in these hills and this is a good very vantage point over the strip why the residents have come to see what is happening really because it is however macabre it is, an astonishing display of firepower like a war that you are watching from this vantage point on the top of the hill and that is why so many people have come out with the news that is this ground war has happened to watch what's going on, wolf. >> major invasion, ground forces israeli ground forces moving
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into gaza. we'll keep the camera of yours live on the border with gaza and show our viewers what's going on. i want to go inside gaza right now. ben wedeman and karl penhaul are there for us. ben, what are you seeing, what are you hearing? well, we've seen probably the same flares that diana was referring to into the northeastern corner of the gaza strip. earlier there was a lot of bombardment coming from israeli ships toward the coast. in fact, we got a bang on our door in the hotel telling us that we had half an hour that a message had been received from the israeli military saying we had half an hour to leave the hotel. so we rushed from there to here. during the evening, what we've seen is a pretty steady bombardment. i was listening to at least one large loud thump every hour for at least the last three to four hours. the most intense bombardment
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we've seen yet. and obviously, the situation in gaza very tense because among other things it, the electricity has been cut in much of the city. as we were preparing to go from our hotel to here, a man came up to our camera mann and asked him what's going on, why are all the journalists in such a commotion. he explained there's going to be bombardment on the coastal area according to israeli military. the man said what should i do? i've got children. my camera man allessandro said get out of this area as quickly as possible. but we've seen multiple examples, wolf, that even when the roo israelis tell people to leave an area, they go to another area, there are attacks there. so very tense in gaza this evening as this bombardment continues as the ground invasion clearly is picking up pace. >> i think picking up on what ben was just sayinging from this vantage point where we are
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now -- yeah, it's quite clear that this intense assault is going on from ground, sea and air on all sides of gaza. so diana speaking very clearly to what is going on in the north. we have seen illumination rounds going up there. that would be an indication that the israelis are trying to mark a target or look for some kind of target on ground. but perhaps the most intensifier we have heard from our vantage point is behind us. across on the eastern gaza border. we know will there are israeli thanks raid across that part of the border. we have seen almost a daisy chain of fire coming from positions across there at certain points. that may be thanks firing in a line into gaza. it could be some other kind you have field artillery that is being used. we're also hearing from cnn sources that there are israeli boots on the ground in the gaza
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strip now, quite probably thanks and armored personnel carriers. they appear like they did in the 2008, nine confrontationing to have moved into gaza with the attempt of trying to split the strip in half. right now, however, we don't know how far into gaza they actually are, wolf. >> all right. guys stand by. i want to get back to you soon. joining us is mark regular gov, is the spokesman for the israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu. what's the objective, the mirt objective of moving these israeli forces into gaza. >> let's be clear, wolf. no one takes the decision of putting ground forces into combat inside gaza lightly it is clear there are dangers but it's also clear there are certain types i have targets that you can only deal with ground forces. and this operation that started tonight is focused on the tunnels. when you tell people in america around the world tunnels they
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think about getting your carl opposite a hilly area. but we have around the gaza strip these terrorist tunnels like we saw this morning where the hamas and the other terrorist groups have dug in these tunnels into israel and can try to surprise us bringing in terrorists with explosives,ing with automatic weapons toe conduct terrorist operations inside israel killing civilians and so forth. this operation at the moment is focused on those tunnels in the border areas. we want to discover them, we want do close them and esdes those tunnels. >> these tunnels a lot of them are right in populated areas. they start perhaps in the basement of some apartment building if you will. a lot of civilians presumably will dais a result of this ground assault. >> if we could have done this by the air, we would have done it. despite the risks involved, it's important to deal with the threat on the ground. we do need land forces to do this. the tunnels in many ways are a
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strategic threat because they will allow haw mass to enter, to let terrorists enter our territory. behind our lines and too kill people. >> is it just the tunnels or are you going after warehouses where these rockets, these missiles are? that becomes an even a broader operation. >> correct. it the operation against the hamas military infrastructure from air and from sea continues. the focus of the ground force operation is on those tunnels. >> so how long is this going to last? what's the military assessment is this going to be a few hour, days, weeks? what is your assessment? >> the overriding objective and goal of this operation is to bring peace and quiet to the israel civilians to end the terrorist threat whether it's the rocket or tunnel threat. we do what needs to be done to protect our people. >> as of yesterday, the spokesman said 40,000 or 50,000 israeli arists have been
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activated for the operation. another 20,000 israeli arists have been activated. is that right? >> i can tell you we are continuing to call cup reservists to meet any eventuality that we might have to make. >> how many troops approximately are part of this invasion if you will, of gaza. >> i think invasion is the wrong word. we're talking about a ground incursion at the moment. for develop the direct reasons. to deal with that will threat from are the tunnels, of course, i'm not going to go into numbers of tunnels. >> is the goal to get rid of hamas, is the goal to get rid of hamas or just destroy their military hardware to destroy the tunnels and then get out? >> the goal is to protect our people. that's our only goal. >> does that mean reoccupying gaza which israel left in 2005? >> we do what needs to be done to stop that hostile fire from are gaza, to stop the rockets, to strop terrorists. we want to come out of this with
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an extended period of peace and quiet for our people. >> israeli troops, i've been told they'll go in there and try to destroy hamas's infrastructure, the military capabilities is, the tunnels, the rockets and then they will leave and go back to israel. is that accurate in the. >> the we want to come out of this with two things. one that hamas's military potential, its military machine diminished in power. we want to see that military machine of largely dismantled and two, we want the leaders of hamas to understand that they simply could not target israel, they cannot attack israel with impunity. >> a cease-fire right now. i know there are negotiations, an israeli delegation is in cairo. the egyptian government has been trying to resib the earlier ill fated unilateral cease fire israel accepted. hamas did not. is that now off the table? >> the only thing important to
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remember now is the reason we're in this squags at had this moment tonight is because hamas said no to an egyptian proposal for a cease-fire. >> what if they say yes for tomorrowle? >> let's wait because so far hamas has opposed all cease fires. even early today when we had the five-hour period for a humanitarian cease fire. so the civilians of gaza could get health care and stock up on food and so forth. israel abided by the cease-fire totally. it was hamas that started shelling mortars at our people. >> you saul diana magnay's live shot right near the border. a lot of hamas rockets and -- she's in sterot. a lot of missiles have come in to sterot. the people are terrified. they're sitting there in chairs watching what's going on. the flares are going up. sometimes they're applauding as they see what's going on? >> i can't comment. i'd say the following.
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you've got to understand and i think people don't get this an produced. the people of those border communities, they have suffered from rockets from gaza day in, day out. not for days, not for weeks but for years. these are communities where they've been living in fear of those terrorist rockets from gaza and people with families, with children, all people, i think they're finally seeing the israeli army moving in. i think i can understand from their point of view that they would feel a certain level of satisfactioning that finally ground forces are going in thering to trial to get rid of that terrorist threat. >> mark regov with the israeli government's perspective. a spokesman for the prime minister. thanks for joining us. mark regov, the spoke man for prime minister benjamin netanyahu. we'll have much more on this israeli operation in gaza is, israeli ground forces are moving in. major numbers of troops move in
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right now. also, what u.s. officials are now calling the deliberate downing of a malaysia airlines jet over ukraine with 295 people on board. we've just learned president obama has talked to the malaysian prime minister. we're going to update you on both of these major breaking stories. really... so our business can be on at&t's network for $175 dollars a month? yup. all five of you for $175. our clients need a lot of attention. there's unlimited talk and text. we're working deals all day.
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i'm wolf blitzer in jerusalem. we're following two breaking stories.
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the israeli ground invasion, israeli troops are now on ground inside gaza. much more on that coming up. also the breaking news out of ukraine. a malaysian airliner was shot down, a ground-to-air missile according to u.s. officials shot down a plane carrying 295 people. we've just received a statement from malaysia airlines saying that all 15 of the crew members were malaysian nationals. but among the others they list some of the other nationalities, 1554 dutch, 23 malaysian, six from the united kingdom, four from germany, three from the pile means one canadian. 47 other passengers they are not identified their nationalities. we're checking to see if americans are included. we'll update you on that. only moments ago, the vice president of the united states, joe viden, spoke out about this airline erl take-down.
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>> an aircraft, a malaysian aircraft heading to amsterdam as it neared the border of ukraine and russia, apparently, i say apparently because we don't have all the details. i want to be sure of what i say, apparently have been shot down. shot down not at accident. blown out of the sky. >> shocking indeed. brian todd is taking a closer look at the threat in eastern ukraine specifically. it's now thrust into the global spotlight in a very, very deadly way. brian, what do you know? >> wolf this region where the malaysia airlines plane went down as been one of the most dangerous places on the planet for months. in city after city near ukraine's border with russia, ukrainian forces have been battling pro-russian separatists. there is a lot of firepower on both sides. with that, several possibilities regard who might have brought
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down that jet. almost immediately, witnesses to the crash in eastern ukraine began shooting and posting video describing the horrific scene. [ speaking foreign language ] transsee black smoke rising? we just saw a plane go down. oh, it hit really hard. >> reporter: on twitter, someone claiming to be commander igor strel cough posted this "by the town of torez, we shot down an am 26, that's a type of cargo plane followed by this ominous warning "do not fly in our skies." that will along with other reports appears to have led ukrainian officials to suggest flight 17 was shot down by "terrorists." it's not clear if his tweet was authentic. ukrainian officials say their forces are not responsible. >> we can assure you that we will take all necessary measures to resolve and to be establish
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circumstances of this horrible awful tragedy. >> reporter: what is clear is that this may be the tipping point in a regional battle that that has raged for months between ukrainian force who's support that country becoming more westernized and pro-russian separatists operating near the border. the u.s. has accused the putin government of backing those forces. ukrainian officials claimed a russian fighter shots down a ukrainian military plane and separatists claimed they shot down cargo planes. analysts say the russians have been supplying thanks to the separatists over the past couple of weeks. and they say russian and ukrainian forces possess the sa-11 known as the buk, a radar guided surface-to-air missile system transported on a tank like chassis easily capable of bringing down a jet flying at 32,000 feet. experts say it's not clear if the pro-russian rebels have the
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buk in their arsenal but are worried they might. in additionings to cnn's reporting about a missile bringing down this plane, i got this from a u.s. intelligence official. they are not ruling anything out including terrorism. but the official stresses it still very early in the investigation. wolf? >> brian todd, thanks very much. we're just getting this in from our state department reporter elise labott. so far, this is so far, so far, there are no american names to confirm aboard that doomed malaysian airliner. a senior state department official say is the manifest of passengers, the state department has the manifest of the passengers, they're going through it. they have in, in fact, elyse is joining us right now. tell viewers precisely what you're learning because a lot of people around the world want to know, were there american passengers on that plane. >> with such a long list of
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passengers, the state department is combing through the manifest carefully. so far, there are no american names to confirm. that doesn't mean there aren't americans, wolf. some of those times there are common names. a lot of names on the manifest don't have passports that are easily identifiable as american iz cs. a lot of these citizens would be primary nationalities of another country but have a dual nationality of u.s. citizenship. the state department doesn't want to say there are no americans aboard but breathing a cautious sigh of relief right now saying there are no americans so far to confirm and they have not as of now, wolf, heard from nel american families saying they have a family member aboard. >> all right. thanks for that information. elise labott reporting from the state department. let's get more with our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto, he's with us, national security analyst bob bare and jewelial jofi, the
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senior editor of the new republic, an expert on russia. do the pro-russian separates in ukraine have the capability to carry out an attack like this without moscow's help? >> you know the separatists are denying they have this capability. they've put out a statement saying they lack it. however, back on june 29th, just a couple weeks ago, they captured a buk missile system from the ukrainian forces. they announced this it was carried in the official russian press. so even by the rebels' own accounting they do have what takes. >> and that missile system clearly could knock a plane like this one out of the sky even if it's flying at 30,000 or 35,000 feet. jim, with separatists in ukraine, the pro-russian separatists based on everything you know, and you were just there a few weeks ago, would they will do there without instructs from moscow? >> it's the ukrainian officials contention they were in touch today as this plane was shot down. the pro-russian separatists in
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eastern ukraine were in touch with russian agents as the plane was shot down. the head of the ukrainian secret service a short time ago release aid transcript of what he said were intercepted telephone conversations between pro-russian militants and russian agent where they discussed a plane was shot down, that it was a passenger plane, that there were lots of passengers' bodies on the ground. so at least that contact was there. now, it's also u.s. officials' contention and it has been for several weeks, that these militants are in touch with russian agents but also armed by russians including with shoulder-fired missiles but there's also the possibility, wolf, that these militants acted on their own without the okay fromming russia, but that is in many ways an equally alarming prospect that them have the these arms and can act as they see fit and having seen the work of these groups in eastern ukraine myself, these are not people you want with heavy weapons making decisions about the shooing down passenger
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planes. >> it's certainly not. stand by. simon is joining from us eastern ukraine, a reporter for advice news. simon, you've been in ukraine for quite awhile. what are you hearing? what are you seeing? give us your sense of what is going on. >> well, i think what's happened today is really sort of watershed moment in the conflict because it's bringing the world's attention to what's happening here. many foreign citizens are dead for the first time in this conflict. it's a really major tragedy. it's i think the single biggest amount of casualties at one, in, one instance that we're having in the conflict in ukraine over the last three, four months. and i think everybody's going to having to take a look. i hope that this isn't a sort of franz ferdinand moment for the world and instead a moment where everybody tries to come together and bring an end to the war in
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ukraine. >> how are the ukrainians where are you, how are they reacting to this? >> the ukrainians are blaming the separatists and blaming russia. they say that russia arms the rebels. and they say that russia instructs the rebels. in fact, they say many of the rebels themselves are sent here from russia and they have no doubt in their mind that this plane was shot down by the pro russia separatists in eastern ukraine. but you know, there's a argument going on between the supporters of russia and the ukrainian authorities here. you have the russian media reporting that it was a ukrainian fighter jet that shot the boeing down. that's totally unconfirmed, obviously. you've got these completely dueling narratives going on at the same time in russia and in ukraine. >> stand by, simon.
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i'm going to get back to you. bob bare is joining us, as well. if these pro ow-russian separatists did carry out this out, how do you think the ukrainian government and military will respond? >> i don't think they're necessarily going to respond but this is a great windfall for them. these are russian weapons coming across the border that putin has been fuelling this conflict for the last year. he has to be stopped. it's going to be an excuse for more sanctions. and i think that whatever happens you know, on this, it's looking more and more like there was some sort of russian complicit. i don't mean they ordered it but supplying these sophisticated weapons they are responsible the an one level. this is a great political victory for them and they're going to call in international investigators to look at this and look at the airplane. if they're employee vented from coming in, it's a further victory for the ukrainians. >> simon, how do you think the
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ukrainian government and military will respond if in fact -- i think they already have, but if it is proven that pro-russian separatists were responsible for the take-down, the killing can of 295 people aboard that malaysia airliner in. >> well, i agree with what was just said. for the ukrainians, this vindicates what they've been saying all along in terms of the russians supplying the separatists with the sophisticated weapons and they're putting the ball in russia's court but also calling on the international community to do more to put pressure on russia to stop arming the rebels and for them, this is going to change the way the world looks at the conflict and that's very important for ukraine. they've been going it alone with very little concrete sort of materiel support. >> julia, how do you think this
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plays out for vladimir putin in moscow, the russian government? >> you know, listening especially to what simon was saying, you're seeing a totally different thing play out inside russia. so you're having people hearing on russian national tv that the kremlin's official position which is that the ukrainian military was aiming for vladimir putin's plane and instead missed and got the malaysia airliner which is crazy. but this is what people hear. this is what they're going to hear repeatedly and they're not going to hear a denial just like a couple days ago, there was a report on russian channel 1, the biggest kremlin-owned channel and covers the most territory and viewers in russia, and they featured an interview with a woman who said she saw a young boil from the area of donetsk k crucified on to a billboard and that his mother was then attached to a tank and dragged
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around town till she will died. this was then roundly disproven everywhere, but russian channel 1 didn't issue a denial saying no, we made a mistake and then actually didn't happen. so what 140 million russians or however many watched this are going to think the ukrainians shot at putin, that they're crucifying children. putin's support isn't going to go down and his political i guess you know support isn't going to go down. i don't know that he's going to -- i don't know there's much that the u.s. or europe can do. the europe -- europe might be more willing to go ahead with more aggressive sanctions but i don't know that there's all that much more that the u.s. can do. >> only yesterday, the obama administration tightened up the sanctions directly against russia. our own nic robertson is now in ukraine in kiev. nick, the russians are blaming the government where you are in key eb, the ukrainian government
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for the take-down of this plane. give us -- what are you hearing over there? what's the latest? >> well, the ukrainian government says it's not responsible for this, that the area that the plane came down in is not under their control or authority. they're saying and reporting intercepted is phone conversations from separatists there indicating that the separatists shot it down. what vladimir putin in russia is saying about this is that the ukrainian government is responsible because president putin is saying is the ukrainian government is responsible for the whole of its territory. he's also saying that this is a tragedy. he held, if you will, a moment of silence during a speech about this issue today. he said that there should be a thorough international investigation. the president of ukraine here said that there should also be an investigation that he invited dutch and malaysian officials to be part of that investigation, wolf. >> nic robertson, we'll get back to you shortly. everyone, stand by.
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we're staying on top of the breaking news. more on the suspected shootdown of a malaysia airlines jumbo jet over ukraine, 295 people on board. also, the breaking news here in the middle east. the unfolding ground operation by israel in gaza. more breaking news. we're life live in jerusalem, that's coming up. your 16-year-old daughter
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the fastest speed dial. the fastest office plant. so why wouldn't i choose the fastest wifi? i would. switch to comcast business internet and get the fastest wifi included. comcast business. built for business. we're following two breaking stories. i'm wolf blitzer here in jerusalem. much more on that coming up. and an apparent takedown of a surface to air missile of a malaysian airliner with 250 people on board. what are you learning, jim? >> we can report that within the last hour the president made phone calls to the malaysian prime minister and with the
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ukrainian prime minister, petro poroshenko. there's a picture of the president on screen right now talking with poroshenko. in the white house readout it says that the president emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy. that is a clear indication that this white house, this president is very concerned about the creditability of this evidence, that it be maintained and preserved on ukrainian soil. they're obviously concerned that this evidence could be tampered with. on the phone earlier this day president obama was talking with russian president vladimir putin as reports of the crash were coming in. during the phone call the president defended his decision to impose new sanctions on russia. the president said, quote, extensive evidence exists that
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russian is increasing the provision of heavy weapons to separatists in ukraine. add to that what the senior officials have been telling reporters that some of the companies in russia, that those companies are responsible for the production of surface to air missiles. administrators noting that a ukrainian jet was shot down just days ago. little bits and pieces come in as the white house is becoming very concerned about the evidence and the debris field in ukraine in that phone call with poroshenko, the president making it clear he wants the evidence preserved. >> yeah, they certainly do. all evidence at least so far pointing to a deliberate shootdown of that malaysian airliner. matthew wall is joining us now. what are you hearing about the apparent shootdown of the malaysian airliner. >> several different things.
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one of them. this airline was flying too high to be hit by the shoulder missiles that we're all worried about. this was taken down by an air-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile. this was taken out by one of the big guys. that was an air force. this was a truck mounted missile, something like that. second of all, this airplane is heavily composite and the composites may burn when it crashes. but it's got a lot of metal in it and the metal may tell a story. there will be metal bent in a way that's characteristic of a missile attack. if you can get to the scene and look, you should be able to figure out yes, it was shot down. third, that there were some flight restrictions put into effect by the russians in the general vicinity but it ooh no clear in this airplane was in
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that vicinity. >> and the fact that the malaysian prime minister was saying there was no distress call from the cockpit of that malaysian airliner, what does that say about the destruction of this aircraft? >> well in some previous shootdowns there have been the cockpit crew knew what was going on, somebody says we've been hit, what's going on on. you might get that off the cockpit voice recorder. in this case the crew may not have had time to radio a distress call. in an airplane in an emergency, the priorities are aviate, navigate, mun kate. you got to navigate the flaen, figure out where you're going and then you've got to talk to others. so the fact that there was no distress call may mean they didn't know what was happening. but it may mean they didn't have time to communicate it. and the cockpit voice recorder is probably on the ground there
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somewhere and they'll find it. >> when they do find the cockpit voice recorder, the so-called black boxes, how much information specifically will we be able to glean from that as far as whether it was an air-to-air missile or a surface-to-air missile, for example? >> that i'm not sure about. you may be able to interpret something from the sound of the airplane being struck. those microphones pick up sound like the microphone over which i'm talking to you. but they also pick up vibrations, sound vibrations that travel through the airframe. there may be something that the crew says. they may know something else. >> it's going to be a long, long investigation. matthew wall, thanks for that useful information. we're watching this story for all of our viewers. we're watching another breaking news story. stand by. we've got lots of news right here in "the situation room."
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two huge breaking stories. u.s. officials now say a malaysian passenger jet was indeed shot down. we're looking at the evidence about who may be to blame as ukrainian officials point their fingers at russia. it's a gruesome scene. we're getting in new pictures this hour. here in the middle east, israel ground forces have started moving into gaza in big numbers. promising to hit hamas targets hard. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in jerusalem, you're in "the situation room." let's get to the breaking news unfolding this hour in two dangerous parts of the world. stand by for a live report. we'll go inside gaza.
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israel blaming hamas militants for the new bloodshed that's about to unfold here in the middle east. much more coming up this hour. first, there are stunning new developments right now in the downing of malaysian flight 17. the u.s. has concluded that the jet was shot down, apparently by a surface-to-air missile. we're told the u.s. has not determined who was responsible and it hasn't found anything to back up ukraine's claims that pro-russian separatists are to blame. 295 people were on board the flight from amsterdam to kuala lumpur. all of them are believed to be dead. the prime minister of malaysia says there was no distress call before the plane went down. the boeing 777, a rust made aircraft went down in eastern ukraine in the volatile donetsk region. journalists and witnesses at the scene say there's charred
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wreckage ste wreckage stretching for miles. they're set to be combing the area littered with bodies, pieces of the plane at the same time. we have correspondents and analysts standing by covering both of the major stories we're following, the breaking news in the middle east as well as in ukraine. let's go to jim shoe ciutto. he's got the latest. >> we have 295 lives caught up in the crisis in ukraine and now both u.s. and ukrainian officials saying they believe that the malaysian jet was shot down by a surface-to-air official. they're not certain from whom or which side of the border it came from. ukrainian officials that i've been speaking to throughout the day, they reeve no doubt. they say it was pro-russian separatists backed up by russia. to support the claim they have released transcripts of what they say are intercepted phone
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conversations between pro-russian separatists and a russian intelligence agent as the plane was shot down. you hear in these transcripts, again released by ukrainian officials, a russian separatist saying it's a passenger plane. the russian agent sig, are there a lot of people there? what kind of plane is it. him saying, we're checking now. that russian separatist seeing those bodies on the ground. that ask the evidence that ukrainian officials are providing now. i spoke to the deputy foreign minister of ukraine. me blames russian and vladimir putin says the world must stop putin. just to be clear here, there is some precedent in recent weeks and days for pro-russian separatists shooting down ukrainian military planes, two this week within on monday a ukrainian military transport plane taken down and just in the last 24 hours a ukrainian fighter jet also taken down alleged by ukrainian officials.
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those are very alarming charges now coming from the new government in kiev against russia. wolf. >> jim, if pro-russian separatists in ukraine got ahold of this kind of sophisticated ground-to-air missile, where would they get that from? that's a pretty sophisticated missile. >> it is. this is some of the evidence that ukrainian officials have cited to me in attaching blame to the pro-russian separatists. in that two weeks ago pro-russian separatists overran a military base and acquired one of these buk surface-to-air missile systems and at the time they advertised photographs of the captured missile system. and they go on to say the missile system has the capability to hit a plane at the altitude that a passenger jet would be flying, above 30,000 feet. u.s. officials have not established that this kind of
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missile system has done this but ukrainian officials are drawing a connection between that missile launcher captured two weeks ago and this plane shot down today. >> jim sciutto, stand by. this plane was supposed to have landed in kuala lumpur. this is a photo of the plane. take a look at this, as it was taking off from amsterdam. rené marsh has more on the time line. what are you picking up? >> this is truly an international ripple effect here. we want to tell people if you're flying internationally we do know from the faa u.s. carriers are voluntarily agreed not no operate in the air space near the russian/ukraine border. many others are doing the same thing. this is because of a safety concern. but at this point there are many unanswered questions. however, we do have some concrete data points about flight 17's final moments in the
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air. >> tonight officials are once again investigating the loss of a malaysia liernls flight, the wreckage of a boeing 777 in a field in ukraine. >> malaysia is unable to certify the cause of this tragedy. but we must and we will find out precisely what happened to this flight. no stone will be left unturned. >> the flight left amsterdam at 6:15 a.m. eastern time, just past noon local time, bound for kuala lumpur with 280 passengers and 15 crew members. still no word in american citizens were on board. >> we've seen the public reports. i spoke to our team right before i came out here. we don't have any additional details at this point on american citizens. >> just an hour and 56 minutes
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after departure, flight tracking website flight radar 24 shows mh 17 gave its last known position at 8:11 a.m. and four minutes later lost contact with the ukrainian air traffic control. >> the aircraft did not make a distress call. >> then images and amateur video of what appears to show the plane crashing just 20 miles away from the russian border. relatives of passengers aboard mh17 gathered at airports in amsterdam and kuala lumpur await word about the flight. at 1:36 a.m. malaysian airlines tweeted they had lost contact with mh17 from amsterdam. the last known position was over ukrainian air space. more details to follow. within hours another flight tracking website showed the air
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space narrowly empty with only three planes in the area. the faa in april issued a warning to u.s. airlines to avoid the region due to safety concerns over the conflict between russia and ukraine saying flight operations are prohibited until further notice in the air space over crimea. though mh17 routinely flew in this region in the past five days, storm in the area pushed the flight much farther north. >> we know that the faa and the united nations organization that coordinates international aviation entities, they say they warned airliners about the unsafe situation arising in the region along this border. but we should point out where the crash happened, it was out of the zone that they
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identified. wolf. >> rene marsh reporting for us from washington. thank you. let's bring back jim sciutto along with miles o'brien and peter goals, tom quinn tes and richard quest. there were no distress calls from the plane and that potentially could be very significant. tell our viewers why. >> well, it could mean that there was something that happened that knocked out the electrical system which made it impossible for them to transmit. it could also mean that things happened very quickly. it also could mean that the crew was too busy with an aircraft that was compromised trying to keep it righted. the cockpit voice recorder which records what's going on inside the cockpit, which we're told -- i'm not totally certain i've heard reports that the black boxes have been found. there's no reason to believe they will not be recovered. it will be telling in this case.
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one of this things that will be interesting is if we hear any unusual noises at the point of impact or whether the missile blue up in proximity and did the crew see it headed in their direction. all of this will help build a case. >> richard, you've been hearing about this flight. what are you hearing? >> well, at the moment the aircraft, since it was the same type and model as mh370 would have had the acar reporting system. they've downloaded the data from the plane or the data they've received. they've passed it on to the regulators. they're not saying what that shows. but if we look back at air france 447, when that happened, the plane started giving out many, many warnings very fast,
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24 in all. so what we would be looking for here is to see what sort of warnings, what sort of failures happened on the aircraft when the incident happened. i have to say, wolf, looking at this particular incident, it's not going to be a huge job of working this out. if they've got the flight data recorder and they've got the cockpit voice recorder and they've got acars and they've got large parts of the fuselage, that will pretty quickly determine whether there was explosives involved, what sort of explosives and where the scene, where the incident took place. >> tom, the vice president, joe biden said today the united states is sending people to help with the investigation. there are concerns that the area has already been significantly tampered with. how could that affect the investigation? >> it's a huge problem, wolf. the fbi already has multiple agents assigned full time in the
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u.s. embassy in kiev. but the problem here is the ukrainian government does not appear to have any control over the ground. that plane went down over 10 hours ago and it appears that the only people that have been near that crash site are local townspeople and the rebels themselves. if the ukraine government cannot secure that crime scene, then the question is are the rebels going to allow investigators from other countries, such as the u.s. or the uk or any number of countries, to come in and actually do the investigation. >> if they're pro-russian separatists, they might invite the russians to come lead the investigation. here's the question. will it have any international legitimacy? >> no. if they do that, they don't have the legitimacy that they may be wanting. the question here is it's a good possibility that these rebels shot that plane down accidentally thinking it was a ukrainian cargo plane, a
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ukrainian military plane having no idea -- they had enough sophistication to push the but tob to launch the missiles, not enough sophistication to know what they were shooting at. then the plane hits the ground, they find the pieces and realize, oh no, we've sht down a passenger airliner. at this point, what happens? blame it on the ukraine. everybody is pointing fingers at each other. that's going to be a huge problem. i think ukraine can claim innocence because if they don't have their own military on the ground to secure that crime scene, then how could they have military in the area to shoot the plane down? >> peter goals, there are rumors as you know that these pro-russian separatists are already obtained the black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder. so much is unknown right now. what concerns you about all of the tampering that could be going on right now? >> there's two things.
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first is the boxes can bring some real light to this event, this tragedy. even if there's just a fraction of a second of sound on the voice recorder, there are multiple microphones in the cockpit. you can trace where the sound is coming from. you can compare it to previous sounds that are on black boxers. like lockerby and do a spectrum analys analysis. but they don't have the international credibility to conduct an investigation. world outrage has got to demand an independent full investigation. >> you used to be the managing director of the ntsb, the national transportation safety board. do you suspect they will be involved in this investigation? >> i suspect they will, under the treaty, they are the right
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to be there. but this has got to be a broader investigation and the russians and the ukrainians have to step back and guarantee safety for the investigators and guarantee that it's independent. >> let me bring back jim sciutto because we're hearing now from vladimir putten, the russian president, tell our viewers what he's saying, what it might mean. give us a sense of -- this is a real international crisis right now. >> it is. it's interesting because vladimir putin blamed ukraine for the crash of this malaysian jetliner. but when you look at his words, he's not actually claiming that ukrainians shot it down but saying that since this plane went down over ukrainian territory that ukraine is responsible for the lack of safety and security there and he goes on to say that's because -- this is a frequent point we've heard from russia, is that it is ukraine provocation that has led
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to this conflict in eastern ukraine, the fight between the ukrainian military and the pro-russian separatists. that's a different interpretation of events on the ground than what you hear from ukrainians or u.s. officials. they blame and say russian instigated this by arming. pro-russian separatists, inciting them to silence and by sending russians across the border to fight with the separatists and having coordination with intelligence et cetera. gives you another one of the cases where you have vastly different views. one side calls it white, the other side calls it black and that's certainly happening with the downing of this jet. >> richard quest, i assume once the real international investigato investigators, including u.s. investigators from the ntsb, the uk, let's say they get to the plane. eventually we will know exactly what happened. is that right or am i being too confident? >> you're absolutely right,
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wolf. they will very quickly establish what happened. now, how it happened and the mechanisms of how it happened. if there this was a missile strike, that will be established pretty quickly with the range of information that they will have. if of course it's something much more technical concerning the aircraft, more of a twa type incident then that will be more difficult. but if you're talking about a lockerby, a bomb, a missile, there will be traces of the explosiv explosives, the way the aircraft came out of the air. they will give a very good reading on that. the question becomes immediately who carries out this investigation. both the criminal and the aviation. and for that the ukrainians have already said, president poroshenko has said ukraine is about to start and seek jurisdiction to do this. well, will the russians allow them? the ntsb will certainly be a part of this as indeed will the
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british. the malaysians will be involved, the australians will be involved. there were maybe 27 australians on board. once again very similar to 370. we're starting to see the makings of the investigation, wolf, but of course just with 370, the question becomes who and when. >> tom fen tus, you're former director of the fbi, so far we don't know of any americans on the plane. we know 295 people were are on the plane, 15 crew members, 180 passengers. the manifest shows all but 47 of the nationalities of the passengers. so far the state department says no one has called in seeking information about loved ones, relatives who may have been on that plane. we'll know pretty soon the identities of everyone on that plane, is that right? >> yeah, wolf, we should know. the fbi should have been able to have already obtained the flight
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manifest many hours ago. the problem is that you could have someone traveling on a passport from a different country who has dual citizenship with the u.s. and therefore it looks like they're canadian, let's say, but they're also a u.s. citizen but they used the canadian transport to obtain the travel and tickets and documentation. that's the problem they're having here. there could be individuals on that plane with multiple citizenship and they have to try to figure out if they're american or not. that's taking a little bit of time in this case. >> if you board an international flight, before they let you on the flight, you're boarding the flight in amsterdam, you've got to show your passport before you get on the plane. presumably they have a complete record of the passports that were used by the 280 passengers. we know all 15 of the crew members were malaysian nationals. that's what we know on that front. you know -- but you already
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suspect the fbi is already involved? >> they could be involved already in terms of doing backgrounds from the flight m manife manifest, the flight list, working with the netherlands where the flight originated with their authorities and also in kuala lumpur, if there's any intelligence gathered there as well as the office in kiev. so it's possible to do that type of investigation without physically being at the scene. but at some point if we don't end up with the ntsb and other credible investigators from around the world at that crash site and if they don't get there in time and the site has not been adequately preserved, it's going to be a difficult investigation to try to solve in the short run. >> bob baer, tell us about the role of the u.s. and ore intelligence services right now trying to piece together what
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exactly happened. >> well, i can tell you right now the cia has sent out guidance worldwide to see who's got somebody close to putin at this point. really the key is russia. we've decided a missile brought it down but whose missile and from where and on whose orders. the only people that can answer that definitively is putin and the kgb. the question is whether they're going to be forthcoming or not. i frankly doubt it. russia is where all of the answers are. >> bob baer, everybody else stand by. we're going to have much more op this story. we're continuing to follow the investigation into malaysian flight 37. also the other breaking news we're fol log, israel launching a ground operation in gaza, our correspondents in the region. they're standing by. we're also going to get the first reaction from a top
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palestinian official. stay with us. you're in "the situation room." ♪ you want to save money on car insurance? no problem. you want to save money on rv insurance? no problem. you want to save money on motorcycle insurance? no problem. you want to find a place to park all these things? fuggedaboud it. this is new york. hey little guy, wake up! aw, come off it mate! geico. saving people money on more than just car insurance.
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israel launching a full scale grouped operation in gaza after more than a week of deadly air striking targeting hamas militants. let's go to zba da right now. ben wedeman is standing by. there you see pictures coming in from gaza, flashing coming up. i assume, ben, that these are israeli flashes, israeli operations even though it's late into the night under way right now. >> reporter: yes, that's correct. and we understand that the israeli operations at the moment are concentrated on two areas of the gaza strip, one along the road which leads to the main north/south highway in gaza. and it does appear that they've reached about 3 kilometers, about a mile and a half inside the gaza strip with tanks.
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we understand there are lots of clashes taking place when israeli forces and palestinian gunmen in that area. it would appear this is a tactic perhaps to cut the zba za strip in half which is what they did in 2008, 2009. in addition to that, they're focused on the north. we're hearing from the two biggest kmaunts in the northern part of the gaza strip that there's intense bombardment in that area. one of our producers was able to get through to one of the residents who said that people are walking, streaming out of that town trying to get away despite the gun fire, the shelling in that area. but the man we spoke to said, i can't go anywhere. i'm staying in my home. where am i going to go, he said, to the gaza sheraton? so you still have a lot of people in these areas stuck in their homes. they didn't want to leave
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despite the fact they were getting these robocalls from the military telling them to leave. the feeling is they need to protect their property. many of them have sent their family to gaza city where they're staying with relaties or in u.n. schools where we know according to the u.n. more than 20,000 people have taken refuge. >> karl, you're there as well. give us your impressions. what are you seeing? >> reporter: yeah, from our vantage point here, wolf, what we've seen, there has certainly been a major combined effort by the israeli military. we've seen assault going in from the air, the ground and from the israeli navy as well. a lot of the action at one point was going on behind us there on the eastern border of gaza. at one point we saw a daisy chain of explosions.
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that indicated to me that was a battery of tanks opening fire. there appears to be a lot of other field artillery in that area as well. since we saw some kind of project tile flying from the ground impacting other targets on the ground. and then at certain points in the evening, the fight seemed to shift more towards the northern border between gaza and israel. at 1078 point we saw illumination rounds going up into the air. that is an indication that the israelis were looking for some kind of target on the ground. as ben also mentioned in statements from hamas, they say that resistance fighters are gathering and they're locked in intense ground clashes with the israeli forces as they come in on the ground, wolf. >> guys, be careful over there. i'm going to get back to you. i'm joined now by the spokesman for the israel defense forces, eu